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Photo Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Examining what the Canucks might get in return if they manage to trade Oliver Ekman-Larsson

When Jim Benning finally completed his quest to acquire veteran defenceman Oliver Ekman-Larsson last offseason, he left the Canucks a stinker of a parting gift. While much has been made about that trade and its impact on the future of the franchise, the new management group can’t time travel and thus must focus on the pieces currently on the team.

Recent rumors in the news have reported that the Canucks are trying to trade Ekman-Larsson, the former management group’s target for multiple seasons. This is not surprising considering his massive contract which is causing significant financial strain on the team’s salary cap and limiting the moves they can make to improve in other areas.

Ekman-Larsson isn’t a bad player. He scored 29 points in 79 games this year, including 21 points in his final 37 games of the season. He also ate up ice-time for the Canucks as he was deployed in almost every situation imaginable. While he is overpaid, Ekman-Larsson is still a solid NHL player that any team would like to have on their blueline, as long as he came at the right cost.

Is he good enough that another team would surrender an asset to acquire him? That’s the question that the Canucks are trying to answer right now. And if the answer is no, is it worth it for the team to surrender an asset alongside one of their most-used defencemen to shed that salary?

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How did Oliver Ekman-Larsson play this season? 

Oliver Ekman-Larsson arrived in Vancouver with a degree of mystery over how he would perform on the ice. His play cratered during his last few years with his former team, the Arizona Coyotes, but there were a handful of reasons that his supporters raised to explain that dip. Everything from the difficulty of playing in such a dysfunctional organization to the quality of his teammates was raised at different points in time. Thus, plenty were interested to see if he could have a rebound season in Vancouver.

The results were a mixed bag. The Canucks scored 54.46% of the goals while he was on the ice at 5-on-5, a number only bested by Travis Dermott and Luke Schenn, two players who played far fewer minutes. He was frequently tasked with going against the opposition’s top forwards, making his numerous minutes more difficult.

Is there a case against the Canucks trading Oliver Ekman-Larsson? 

If the Canucks can get rid of Ekman-Larsson, they need to do it. There is no argument that keeping his salary on the books puts the team in a better situation in the long run. While he is a productive player that would look good on the roster if his cap hit was cut in half, other bloated contracts on the team only make it more important that the Canucks pounce on any opportunity.

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“I’ve always been a guy who puts the team in front of myself and I’m going to keep doing that and whatever I need to do to make this team successful,” said Ekman-Larsson during his end-of-year press conference.

Despite the fact that it makes so much sense to get rid of Ekman-Larsson, it gets tricky when potential trade scenarios are discussed. It’s extremely unlikely that another team would give anything of value in exchange for the veteran defenceman, but could the Canucks get away with trading him for a late-round draft pick or would they need to throw in another valuable piece?

What might an Oliver Ekman-Larsson trade look like? 

Unfortunately for the Canucks, Ekman-Larsson can drastically affect any trade because of the no-movement clause attached to his contract. This gives the player full control over where to go and allows the Swedish-born player to determine his own destiny. Between this clause and the team’s salary cap issues, the Canucks are handcuffed, and other teams will be well aware of this and ready to take advantage.

The most likely trade scenario could look something like the Canucks trading Ekman-Larsson, along with a mid-round draft pick or average prospect, to a rebuilding team in exchange for a late-round draft pick. This makes sense from a hockey standpoint, but it’s unlikely that Ekman-Larsson would be willing to go to a market like Buffalo.

An Ekman-Larsson trade remains very unlikely but something that the Canucks need to continue to explore. Any possible opportunity must be taken advantage of, despite there likely being no return for the veteran.

What do you think the chances of an Ekman-Larsson trade happening are? What do you see as a possible scenario? Would you be happy with giving up a draft pick?

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